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February 04, 2010

Board of Elections and Ethics rejects D.C. marriage referendum

Dcboee_blue_logo The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics today ruled against the proposed "Referendum on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009." Here is the conclusion:

The District's Initiative, Referendum and Recall Procedures Act requires the Board to refuse to accept referendum measures that would violate the HRA. Referendum measures that would thwart the Council's efforts to eradicate unlawful discrimination violate the HRA. The Civil Marriage Equality Act represents the Council's effort to eliminate the discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The Referendum seeks to frustrate this effort, and would, if successful, have the effect of authorizing discrimination in contravention of the HRA. Accordingly, it does not present a proper subject for referendum, and may not be accepted by the Board.

This is very good news, if unsurprising given that this is the Board's third ruling in less than a year on a proposed ballot measure regarding same-sex marriage. One argument by those of us opposing the referendum that the Board did not accept was the claim, advanced by Stein Club counsel Mark Levine and D.C. Council General Counsel Brian Flowers (and embraced by Bob Summersgill and me) that the referendum violates the "acts appropriating funds for the general operation budget" restriction on the right of referendum. Well, we don't have to win every argument. Congrats to all who testified against the referendum. Our opponents will likely appeal the ruling to the Superior Court, but they have little time since the bill will become law when the congressional review period is completed in about a month.

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